Friday, 31 January 2014

Deep South Gully

 The legendary Deep South Gully (I****), Beinn Alligin.

Weird and wonderful climbs are by no means a rarity in Scotland, but Deep South Gully is pretty mad. If the scenary and situation of a route is more important to you than the grade, then is this one of the best Scottish winter climbs?

I very nearly didn't climb this route on Wednesday, the air seemed too mild and the snowline too high. The incessant wind which has characterised this winter was doing its stuff and I'd started to lose hope that it would be worth my while. There wasn't a single other car in the Beinn Alligin carpark - did they know something I didn't? Should I have set my sights on a higher corrie instead?

Views to Beinn Bhan.
I turned the crucial corner and two things became quickly apparent - the gully looked massive, and it didn't look to be holding much snow. Curiosity got the better of me, and going for a look seemed preferably to turning tail.

At this point a golden eagle briefly appeared flying past the gully.

Soft and slushy snow greeted me in the gully, but within a few minutes my attention was well and truly on other things. What a place! Of course I'd seen photos of this gigantic chasm before, but as always the photos never did it justice. It's one of those route that you top out from with a sore neck from all the gazing upwards to the massive gully walls above. This chasm seems very long but it only forms the bottom half of the route, until it quite suddenly it narrows and the whole gully tilts to the right.

A soft ice pitch to gain the narrows. Above this the climbing briefly becomes a bit more like potholing.

Inside the first chockstone cave. The next squeeze is much tighter.

A soft ice pitch provided entrance to the narrows. Then it was time to tighten all the straps on my rucksack, because some upwards crawling and squeezing looked necessary. A stack of jammed boulders has created a short cave, which I crawled through only to find there was more tunnelling to be done. Some of the moves were pretty awkward but there's practically no exposure as if you slipped I suspect you'd just get jammed in one of the holes. 

Looking down on the first chockstone.

More squeezing and crawling to come.

The whole place is pretty outrageous, and I wreckon it's one of the classiest routes I've ever climbed. It's reassuring to know that I can get as much of a buzz from a route like this as I can from soloing a III,4. Not somewhere you go to climb for difficulty, just simple mad fun in absolutely remarkable surroundings.

Marked improvement in snow conditions in the upper half of the gully.

The second Horn of Alligin.


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